Pune: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Wednesday slapped notice on the Maharashtra government and private companies, saying sanitary napkins and diapers manufacturers are violating laws by not providing pouches or wrappers for disposing them.
The complaint has been filed by Purva P. Bora, a female student of Shankarrao Chavan Law College, through her lawyer Asim Sarode. She contended that no manufacturer provides pouches which is “ultra-vires the provisions of Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016”, adding that napkins and diapers of a majority of brands are non-biodegradable because of plastic polymers used in their manufacture.
Taking serious cognisance of the plea, the NGT Bench here, comprising Justice U.D. Salvi and Nagin Nanda, served notice to the state government and various municipal bodies, pollution control authorities, top manufacturers like Johnson & Johnson, Unichem India Pvt Ltd, Kimberly-Clark Lever Ltd, and Procter & Gamble India, ordering their presence at the next hearing on December 19.
Complainant Bora said sanitary waste is a part of definition under Sec 3(4) of SWM Rules, 2016, but found that there is a huge discrepancy between the law and practice as no manufacturers provide wrapper for their safe disposal, mandated under law. She said that for modern women, periods are unimaginable without disposable sanitary napkins and in a lifetime, a woman can use between 8,000-15,000 disposable pads, tampons or liners.
Accordingly, around 40,000-crore sanitary waste in the form of used napkins create huge garbage in India annually and many a time the non-compostable pads enter the sewerage systems, landfills, fields and water bodies causing huge environmental and public health risks. Similarly, an infant would use around 1,500-2000 disposable diapers till it reaches the age of two, which would require 20 trees to be cut and 1,180 litres of crude oil to manufacture.
In India, only 12 per cent of the 355 million women in menstruating age can afford to use disposable sanitary napkins. However, these 42.6 million (12 per cent of 355 million) will throw away more than 21.30 billion sanitary napkins into a landfill in their lifetime.
In her plea, Bora demanded that the state and central governments, pollution control board authorities, public health and urban departments, municipal bodies and others be directed to ask all manufacturers and brand owners of sanitary napkins and diapers to provide pouches or wrappers for their safe disposal, and launch awareness drives.
Sarode said the state government should seek financial assistance from the manufacturers to install “Sanitary Napkins Destroying Vending Machines” since they contain bodily fluids, life-threatening pathogens, which severely compromise the health and lives of millions of sanitary workers besides flouting their fundamental Right to Life.